National Geographic : 1983 Jul
30 percent of new-car sales by early 1983. "In a sense, everybody was right and ev erybody was wrong," said Professor Robert Cole, former director of Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. "When Ameri cans wanted large cars and only Americans made them, it made perfect sense for unions to ask for higher wages and management to grant them. The truth became apparent through hindsight, but really after the '73 oil shock everybody should have seen the hand writing on the wall." Americans had access to small cars many times. Les Lindvig of Phoenix, Arizona, led me through a collection rejected by most U. S. buyers: the Henry J, the Nash Metro politan and Rambler, and the Crosley Hot shot, a snappy pint-size sports car that got 40 miles per gallon in the late 1940s. We paused by a roadster introduced in 1930 that was smaller than the Volkswagen Beetle-the American Austin. "It was heralded as the practical car of the Imports drive DOMESTIC into U.S. market JAPANESE GERMAN CAUGHT in a double OTHER bind, U. S. automakers TOTAL SALES see foreign competitors claim (INMILLIONS) an increasingshare of a shrinking market. The 1973 gasoline shortageaccelerated the swing to small imports. Signs at a UnitedAuto Workers parking lot in Detroit (left) leave no doubt about union sentiment. future, but cartoonists made it the butt of jokes," Lindvig said. He picked up an auto history book: "Look, here's one showing an Austin stuck to a wad of chewing gum. We were a big country with lots of open space. Americans went for big cars." When the fuel squeeze helped change drivers' minds, the small cars were being built elsewhere. Twenty-two percent of U. S. sales are now Japanese cars, which are both well built and inexpensive. I went to Japan to find out how they do it. /Z MERICANS HAVE long believed /\ that they invented the "fast pace of / living." I had to stretch my legs to keep up with the small, wiry 27 year-old striding briskly through a Tokyo rail station as we headed for a bullet train that would shoot us closer to Toyota head quarters. The pace of the line workers equaled that of my guide. Nobody strolls in a Japanese 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 8.9% 6.9% 3.7% 33% 3.1% 8.40 11.42 10.11 10.67 7.98 NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC CARTOGRAPHIC DIVISION DATAFROMTHEMOTORVEHICLEMANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION ANDWARDSCOMMUNICATION, INC.